Wednesday, April 24, 2002
The 10,000-Dimensional Web in Heaven and Net on Earth
The word-for-word Chinese translation for "world wide web" is "10,000-Dimensional Web in Heaven and Net on Earth."
Today I saw Monsoon Wedding,a beautiful atmospheric film about the drama behind a upper middle class’s family lavish wedding for their daughter. While watching, I was reminded of various “wedding” films over the years: Ray’s glorious Apur Sansar as well as Ang Lee’s hilarious and warm Wedding Banquet.
The film was full of suprises (the Indian groom lived in Houston, Texas!) and funny memorable characters. There was the daughter who reads Tagore (do characters in Indian films ever NOT read Tagore?), the wiry and eccentric wedding planner, the bride's brother who is obsessed with TV cooking shows, the troubled cousin (played by Shefali Shetty), and a cast of family members who squabble and gossip, but still belt out a few songs and even dance. How pleasant it was to recognize an old song I downloaded a few weeks ago -"Gore Gore O Banke Chhore"--, a song originally made famous by Lata Mangeshkar in the 1950 film Samadhi. Actually, I have an absolutely delightful version of the same song by Geeta Dutt .
Despite the incompetent organization, the Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema is perceptive and full of great insights about Hindi film.
The Filmfare awards are the Hindi version of the “Oscar” awards. Given the persistent snubbing of Hindi films by the Oscars , it is only fitting for India to have its own awards. Still, some of the categories are intriguing. Best Comedian? Best Actor in a Negative Role?
You may have heard of Kumar Sanu and how he set a Guiness record for the most songs recorded at a studio in a single day (28). You may have heard his duet of the jamming song Mehndi laga ke rakhna from the film Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge . But did you know he sang a song Kisi roz tumse mulakat hogi that incorporated words and melodies from Ob-la-di Ob-la-da? Way too cool!
A few days ago I discovered two very distinguished literary sites from India. Meghdutam.com is an accomplished English language literary websites for Indians and probably one of the most distinguished literary sites I've seen. It is bulging with reflections and interviews, articles book reviews and stories. Outlook India is another intellectual’s site, with great contributions by Indians and nonIndians. It has essays, diaries, editorials and book reviews. Expect more links from these two sites.
Saturday, April 20, 2002
"No sex. No drugs. Maybe a little rock 'n' roll."
Music--should it cost money? For $5 dollars a month, you can listen to thousands of radio stations without commercials on www.live365.com . The great thing about the live365 player is that it shows a playlist while the songs are playing and helpfully includes a link to an online store. Actually, for those "free beer, free music" enthusiasts, live365.com provides free music with occasional commercials and has a great variety of specialized streaming radio shows. Besides Desidude's wonderful collection of old Bollywood tunes, a Telugu oldies station, a Chinese pop station, a great Cantonese pop station , and an 80's Japanese pop station, you can find great oddities: a radio station dedicated to porn music from the 1970's and 1980's, a Rotterdam Trance station and an uplifting Liveireland radio broadcast.
Here's an article about Vivian Hsu, an adorable Taiwanese singer and film who sings mainstream Cantapop. Believe it or not, I'd seen some tasteful artistic nudes of her a few years ago. Apparently last year she appeared in a Jackie Chan film.
As crazy as it may sound, the best source of information in English about Chinese culture seems to be the Asian Edition of Time Magazine, written mainly by people with American-sounding names. The excellent Music Goes Global section published a few months ago contains excellent profiles of Asian singers. (There are also sections for Africa, Latin America, Europe, and even America. Of course, the selection of singers is rather arbitrary and still much depends on how popular you are in America. I doubt for instance that Utada Hikaru would have merited a Time Magazine profile were she not a freshman attending Columbia University. But I'm not complaining. This special section introduced me to Badmarsh & Shri, whose musical piece "Sajanna" is remarkable.
What is Cantapop? Edison Chen wrote "No sex. No drugs. Maybe a little rock 'n' roll." Quoted from Richard Corliss's entertaining article on Cantapop.
"A recent survey found that more than 40% of Taiwanese women won't use public toilets because they fear hidden cameras.." A Time magazine article on Taiwan's infatuation with tiny video cameras provides details.
Asia BBC provides a Bollywood Film Review and a Bollywood Interview section.
Wednesday, April 17, 2002
What is the Most Common Search Term in China?
Recently I saw Sholay, a “curry Western” from the 1970’s faintly reminiscent of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” It’s a stylized epic story of two petty thieves who agree to defend a village against a notorious criminal. There are many things to say about this wonderful film, including a cinema essay by Westerner Francine Hardaware and another essay in Upperstall but Hema Malini steals the show, with her chatterbox personality and her dance to save her boyfriend. That memorable dance (and I won't go into detail about it here, for fear of spoiling the surprise) embodies the dualities in the arts: the horror and the joy and the salvation.
"Moulin Rouge represents the perfect meeting point of Hollywood and Bollywood. Much as the film is an unmistakable pointer to the future of mainstream Indian cinema, it is also a stinging slap on our faces. It shows us how a director from down under (Baz Luhrmann, just three films old) can take our Indian formula, transform it with his ferocious creative energy, get backing from a Hollywood studio, and burst in on the international scene, (making fools of us Indians). " Read this Indian critic's essay on Moulin Rouge.
Fun-Da_Mental is a Pakistani/British rap band with an attitude. When you listen to "Ja Sha Tan", you will forget about politics entirely.
“The facets to her voice are innumerable, infinite, stratospheric..she can sing like a seductress, an enchantress, a Nightingale- or she can bring various emotions to her songs, and deliver them with perfection- coy, innocent, naughty, naive, blissful, silly, perky, happy, sad, emotional, deep, passionate, romantic, compassionate, loving, sensuous- all in this one tiny, yet stratospheric voice that sings in comparison with that of a flute or piccolo- flawless falsetto that never ceases to enchant.” A young American writes about singer-sisters Asha Bhosle and Lata Mangeshkar in a personal fan site.
Want a cheap way to watch Indian films and Indian musicals? Yaga, a content delivery network, allows you (for a monthly $5 fee ) to download hundreds of Hindi music videos and even some full length films. (I talked to the CEO at a South by South Interactive panel in Austin).
It’s not really about culture, but an article about the battle of the Chinese government to block foreign Internet content provides a backdrop for the Chinese cultural scene. Do you know that the most common search terms on Chinese search engines is "proxy server" ?
Siti Nurhaliza is a great Malaysian pop singer.